Denzel McCampbell: Young Leaders in Public Service

February 8, 2022 0:52:36
Kaltura Video

Denzel McCampbell, communications and political director for U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, joins the Program in Practical Policy Engagement for a discussion. February, 2022.


0:00:03.8 Speaker 1: For those of you who don't know me, I'm Cindy Bank, the associate director of the Program in Practical Policy Engagement and I'm on-line with my wonderful colleague, Mariam Negaran, who will be behind the scenes making sure that this goes smoothly as she always does. And I'm really excited today to welcome a new friend, Denzel Mc Campbell, who will be introducing himself shortly and telling you a little bit about his journey to where he is now. He'll speak for a few minutes and then we really wanna open this up to questions and answers. We would really like this to be a dialogue, so a few of you have put questions in before hand, and if you're on, I will call on you, if otherwise, Mariam will put instructions in as far as raising your hand or adding something to the chat, but let's have a good dialogue. Okay, so Denzel, welcome to the Ford School, and it's really just wonderful to have you.

0:01:09.3 Speaker 2: Oh, thank you so much, Cindy. Thank you. Big thanks to you, to Mariam and everyone at P3E and the Ford School. I really appreciate you all being here this morning, I know as we enter year three of a pandemic, when you see another Zoom, then you may be like, "Okay, I've got to be on Zoom more," so I really appreciate you all being on to hear from me, but to really as Cindy said, to really have a conversation about civic engagement, about where politics is today, and really what I really wanna talk about is finding your role in the landscape as well, because I think that's key as we... As folks are entering or are currently in spaces that they wanna be in to effect change.

0:02:00.3 S2: And just a little bit about myself, my name is Denzel Mc Campbell. I was born and raised in the city of Detroit. On the East side, I identify as a black queer young person, I'm 30 years old, and currently living on the West side right now, and I got my start, I will say at tell posts I got my start in politics or civic engagement when my parents would take me to vote with them. We would get the campaign literature in the mail and my mom would give it to me and say, "Okay, who shall I vote? You read and tell me who you think I should vote for." And things like that, and she would take me into the voting booth and she will say, "Okay, the person you said what's their name, point at it, and my dad would come home from work and he would take me to do the same thing at the elementary school right down the block, and that really instilled in me the importance around voting, the importance around showing up for community, and I think that's key as we think about how we want to be in policy and wanna be in the political space.

0:02:58.7 S2: It's about how are we showing up for the community and the folks that we want to be in service with? As growing up, I actually, I was actually talking to a friend about this yesterday. I wanted to be an airplane pilot, I did not think about being in politics, but I have... As you see with the glasses, I do not have the best vision and to be a pilot, you have to have really good vision, so that was a no-go, but I went to Michigan State, and I hope you all don't hold that against me and at Michigan State I participated in the student government there, ASMSU. I was also on campus at the LGBT Resource Center as well as, I started all as volunteering and eventually became a program coordinator and being at Michigan State, being right down the block from the state's capital, being on campus during the time where the right to work laws were being pushed, and I come from a union family. So that was something that was of great interest to me.

0:04:00.8 S2: And folks may remember the protests that were happening at the capital, while that was happening and while, right to work laws were being pushed and on campus we had situations where I was in the student government, and at that time we're autonomous student government our bank accounts of... We had a student tax, was going to a bank accounts that were off campus are not in a MSU university account, but we had all safeguards, financial safeguards that basically the Michigan financial folks were able to see what was going in and what was coming out, but we had an off-campus account, and there came a time where the administration and then during that time Lou Anna K. Simon was the university president that she... They wanted the counsels to come back on campus. They wanted the counsel to come back on campus. They wanted us to change our bylaws that we saw will take away or autonomy.

0:05:00.5 S2: So that was really my first foray into the power dynamics that we sometimes see in this atmosphere and in this environment, and our accounts got frozen actually for several months as we went back and forth with the administration, but also as I look back... This was during the time where our counseling center was severely underfunded, and then my role, I was the vice president of the student body, I sat on what was called the University Committee for Student Affairs, and this committee had oversight over the counseling center. And basically I was told that it was a while... Yes, we know students needed support and help, folks were waiting for months for appointment if they didn't have private insurance or Medicaid or anything like that, the only option would be the counseling center, and they had to wait months and basically I was told that it was a situation of, "Oh, if we put more money in to the counseling center, we have to pull it from somewhere else," meanwhile my tuition continued to go up, and I look back on that as when the Larry Nassar.

0:06:10.2 S2: A horrific scandal happened and folks came forward. I really look back at the inaction of the university administration on that and the connection there. So I just wanted to make them known that that is something that really got me started thinking about wider systems and how about changing the system. Now, after I graduated from Michigan State, I went to DC and interned and met folks and really honed in on my passion around voting rights. I became a voting rights organizer across the state of Michigan where we did work on college campuses. There were universities and colleges who didn't have a voting booth on campus which we saw would disenfranchise students. I did work on... We had our first-ever Secretary of State debate and because we felt that this is a statewide office that didn't get a lot of attention. And we also did... These were the early stages of the planning around the Promote the right to vote effort in every district and reform, which I knew was on a lot of folks minds today.

0:07:14.8 S2: And I did organized it and I said, "Okay, what about campaigns?" [chuckle] And gotta to starting campaigns with now state senator Stephanie Chang. I was her first campaign manager when she ran for state representative in a Detroit-based seat. And as we're talking about young folks in public policy and public service I really appreciate... Yes, that Ford school, I really appreciate senator Chang because she was a first-time candidate. She was an organizer turned candidate. And I had never managed a campaign before. And when I interviewed, it was... She took the chance on me and I tell her to this day, "Thank you for taking the chance on someone young. You were a young candidate, a first-time candidate and you took your chance on me."

0:08:05.8 S2: So I really think as we have a conversation today the importance of giving folks a chance because so often, in this space, we see the same folks doing the same thing and because about "experience" when it's all about bringing new ideas into the forefront and new strategy and things like that. After I was... And I know, I definitely want to get to the questions and then we can just finish up and we can get to the questions. After working with senator Chang, I started at a... And this is my foray into communication started at Progress Michigan which is a progressive advocacy organization statewide, on working on progressive issues. And there, I was an organizer and a communication specialist. And what I would do, I would go to groups across the state in the city of Detroit but across the state on water justice, environmental justice, community benefits and economic justice issues, reproductive justice. And I would actually meet with the groups to say, "How do you want to get your organizing work out? How can we use communications as a tool to amplify your organizing work?" So I would be their communications person because these organizations didn't have the budget to have a communications, dedicated communication person so we helped to increase that capacity.

0:09:25.6 S2: And that's where I had, just to circle back a little bit, senator Chang ran for the office, that Congresswoman Tlaib her state rep. That was her state rep seat that she was term-limited out. I met Congresswoman Tlaib then in 2014. And then when she ran for Senate, she lost that race and then went to Sugar Law Center. And Sugar Law Center was an organization that Progress Michigan worked with. I got to work with Congresswoman Tlaib and she let me know that she was running for Congress when Congressman John Conyers was stepping down. And we were... I remember the winter day that we were sitting and she made the decision. And we were like, "Okay, this is gonna be a tough hill to climb."

0:10:14.3 S2: But we were all folks that came from direct voter contact, field-driven campaigns and meeting folks for who they are, listening to folks delivering constituent services even while on the campaign trail. And we knew, if Rashida and our team was able to get in front of folks, we would change hearts and minds. And looking back in 2018, to win that election by 900 votes. 900 votes. It's not to sound cliche, but every vote counts. And I know there's been closer races. Even in Metro Detroit, there's a state rep, who I believe won her seat by 48 votes. After, in 2018, I was still at Progress Michigan. [chuckle] Congresswoman Tlaib texted me and said, "Well, I need a communications director?" And I said, "Well, I can help you look for someone, which... [chuckle] And she's just like, "No, I want you to come work with me." And I'm like, "Well, I don't want to move from Detroit because I had planned to...

0:11:17.6 S2: I had to run for office, which I'll talk about next. And I said, "Well, I wanna continue being in Detroit." She's like, "Okay. Let me talk to some other members and see if we... If there is actually a communications director that can be in this district." And she talked and she came back and said, "Okay, I think we can make this work." And I said, "Okay. Well, I have to think about it." Honestly, you all, I was like, "Well, I still have to think about it." And I talked to family and friends. And they were like, "What are you talking about? You need to take that position, you have to definitely go."

0:11:47.5 S2: And it's been, really, a whirlwind from there in this role. Folks know about the first day on the hill with the famous term. But what I will also say is that it's been really an honour. I live in the 13th congressional district right now. And it's been an honour to be able to do communications for someone who is really committed in the same values that I have and then in the work that I wish to push forward and in a way that I can say, "Okay, let's think about how we're saying this thing to folks, how we're hearing from the community on how this issue impacts them." And we're able to, really, on a national stage, talk about these issues, connecting it back to home, connecting it back to the district. And now we're entering what... We're wrapping up for another re-election campaign with newly drawn districts. And as I talked about, I ran for office. I had run for office in 2018 for the Detroit Charter Revision Commission and folks to... You won't hear about this for... Every time. It only comes up every 16 years. And our charter is basically our city's constitution and...

0:13:03.9 S2: Not a lot of folks knew about it. It's a race that was at the back of the ballot. There are nine seats on it. There were 18 people running. And I had never run for office myself is so completely different being a candidate. And instead of being a campaign staff. And during that time I came 10th place out of the 18. First time running, I was 10th place out of 18. And that impacted me. I was sad. I'm like, "Okay, I knocked doors. But we'll get them next time." And a year later, there was a resignation on the board. And the commission had adopted by-laws to the next vote getter would get on the board. And that was me. So I eventually got on the commission. And really enjoyed the work. It was a lot of... It was a lot of work. We're getting to know each other. There are personalities of getting to know each other. We're a group of folks who had not been together. But we really put forth what I think was a forward thinking document on the issues that residents came to us. We had over 500 submissions to revise our city's constitution. And I make that point because it was a way that we engaged people on what was going on in their communities, what was going in their lives. And invited them in, in really a co-governance model to say how can we change this to be better? And to be a better city? 

0:14:25.4 S2: And we did that work. It was a three-year process and it was put on the ballot. And unfortunately, there were business interests in the city and the mayor was opposed to it. And they spent millions of dollars in the effort to defeat the proposal. And it was defeated. But what was so great to see come out of that work were there were folks, organizations and community members who built coalitions with each other. Who had never worked together before working on great issues, but never worked together before to say, "We want to come together and put forth revisions. We want to come together and be at meetings. We wanna work with commissioners. We wanna work with stakeholders to make sure people understood why this was important." And that work continues on today. And after the while, the commission was wrapping up, as I've mentioned before, I really have a passion around voting rights. I really have a passion around election administration and civic education.

0:15:23.9 S2: I decided to run for the Detroit City Clerks race. And folks may remember when our Lieutenant Governor, Garlin Gilchrist ran for city clerk in 2017, he came very close, 1500 votes against our current clerk who has been in office for 16 years. And at that time, 29 had ran for a Charter Commission, but again, it was a lesser known race and folks looked at me as, "This is the new kid on the block. He doesn't know what he's talking about." I actually heard that from folks. I heard from folks that it's very, a low number of people. But I heard from folks that Detroit won't elect a gay city clerk. Things like that, which is still, which is still present. But on the flip side, there were so many people that we would knock on doors that would say, "Wow, I didn't know that about the city clerk." Or, "I didn't know that these were the functions." Or, "I didn't know that we could do... I didn't realize that we can be doing much better in terms of educating folks, in terms of being in schools to make sure that we have generations of folks who are civically educated and engaged as students." To make sure that we're meeting people where they are on the issues that they care about.

0:16:42.9 S2: In the city of Detroit, we continue to see a decrease of voter turnout. And what I argue to folks, the city clerk said, " Well, I can't make people do anything. I can't make people go vote." And I said, "No. Absolutely. You can't make people do anything. But what you can do is provide folks with the tools and educations to empower them to make their own decisions, and make their decisions in a way that they see fit, whether that's at the ballot box, whether that's at city council meetings or neighborhood block clubs, or just doing things within their community." So as I ran, I talked about what I call a civic education core. And this... What I put forth was that this will be a group of folks in the community. Young people, folks that have everyday jobs or are in block clubs, or our seasoned residents who have retired and just wanna do something in the community of going door to door to talk to our neighbors to say, "Let's talk about the issues that are important to you. Let's talk about how it is appearing in your life." If you have a family, we're talking about recreation options and you say, "Well, you know this park by near me, I would love to have new equipment there." And I actually talked about well... Okay, let's talk about how the city council is over our budget, but also the Parks and Rec department that takes care of our parks.

0:18:05.0 S2: So let's engage you with them. And oh, by the way, if you wanna go to a city council meeting when the budget hearings are happening, here's how you do so. And to build folks up that civic engagement ladder, so when elections come around, we can then go back and have a conversation and say, "Hey, remember you talked about recreation options and in the city, now we're having city council here, elections and the mayor, if candidates are coming to your door or if you want to interact, you can ask them about that." And really, and I really think it's about getting to the foundation of meeting people where they are. And like I said, bringing them up there in the engagement ladder. And before I open up for questions, cause I definitely wanna hear questions. During this time of me doing voting rights organizing, being in DC and doing this work with the murder of Trayvon Martin and the other horrific and tragic killings that we've seen folks by police, I joined a group called The Black Youth Project 100 and this is a...

0:19:16.0 S2: What I can consider my political home. And what we operated out was called a blacker from a glance. And what that is routing in is, thinking about organizing work, and our policy work, and things that we do from centering the folks who are on the margins of margins. So as we talk about Black trans women who experience violence at a higher, a much higher rate than others, as we talk about folks who are living in poverty, as we talk about folks with marginalized sexual identities. Thinking about our work from centering those folks because not only is it important to do so, so we're not leaving the folks out of our policy work or whatever work we're doing, but also we know when we take care of the obstacles or issues that those folks are experiencing, everyone else wins as well, and everyone else gets a better quality of life also. So I did policy work on the DC on a national level would be whereby people are handled as well. And I consider myself a policy nerd or wonk, or whatever you wanna say, and that was also great work as well. I feel like I talked a lot, so I definitely wanna open up questions, I really appreciate you all listening to me, and I thank you again for having me today.

0:20:40.4 S1: Well, Denzel, that was also very interesting. You've covered, getting started when you were young, I mean, I always made it a point to bring my son in the voting booth with me. Ever since he was a baby, I'd take him in there in a stroller, so it's important, very important. But anyhow, I know we have at least three of the students who submitted questions ahead of time, I think Mariam's put in instructions, but I'm gonna call on Crystal first, She's our outgoing head of our Student Affairs Committee. Crystal, are you there? 

0:21:13.1 Speaker 3: Hi, Cindy. Hi Denzel, thank you for being here.

0:21:19.3 S2: Hi there, thank you.

0:21:21.6 S3: Yeah, this was really great to hear, just like your journey. I submitted the form with the question, but I still can't recall the question, well, Cindy, could you, could you read it for me? 

0:21:30.4 S1: Yeah, how can we continue mobilizing active participation in our democratic process? But you may have another question too, so [chuckle]

0:21:41.1 S2: For sure. That is something, Crystal, and thank you for all that you do. That is something that I think about every day, and that was one of the reasons why I decided to run for Detroit City Clerk. What I stressed to folks was, yes, there was... I could identify deep short comings with the current City Clerk. But also I run because I thought we could be doing things new and better and in a new way of reaching folks and as we're in a, as we're in a political atmosphere, especially on a federal level, but also you can argue on a state level, and we've seen in some municipalities as well, where there's not a lot being done, or we have mobilized folks to turn out and vote and then they don't see their issues being worked on at any level. As for example, as we think about the Build Back Better Act on the federal level, which had a lot of key proposes that folks were motivated to go out and vote with. I really think we have to go beyond the aspect of... How do I put it in this way? 

0:22:56.1 S2: As I talked about the civic education core, really many people where they are on those everyday issues that we're talking to folks on how their daily lives are being impacted and find out ways that we can have folks... Help folks step into their own agency on being a part of the change that they want to see. Whether that is running for office themselves, but also knowing that that's not for everyone, whether that is encouraging them to attend City Council meetings, because I will say the local level is where we see the most things happening right? And having them be a part of that because so often these bodies, or counsels, or state legislature, or the Congress seems so far away from folks in their lives and really making them bring it to their front door and find a way for folks to access and for governor to be accessible... Government to be accessible.

0:23:51.1 S2: And I know that it may seem like high in the sky but I really think in the way is that we can, one thing that I talked about was, as we go door-to-door and talk to people, also having what I call people's assemblies. They said come together for a community where it could be a neighborhood or a city council district, in Detroit, we have City council districts where we just talking with community to come up with solutions to this, to issues that are impacting folks. And coming up with policy and ways to put that change, so we're giving folks different ways to interact with our political space. I hope that provided some context.

0:24:32.9 S3: Yeah, that's all I mean. I think you're right of how, I guess it's easier for folks to see the action in place at the local level, and so thank you for highlighting that. Yeah, I pass mic down to Shooky. [chuckle]

0:24:52.8 S1: Yeah, go ahead.

0:24:53.8 Speaker 4: Hi, I was wondering what advice you have for students who want a voice in decisions being made by university administrations. I know you talked a little bit about your work at MSU.

0:25:04.6 S2: Yes. Thank you. That is... I will say, when I was at ASMSU, it's been so interesting to see the role, and I don't immediately wanna go to the social media, but it has been so interesting to see the role that social media has played, especially in student organizing but around all the issues that we are encountering and it is see...

0:25:33.3 S2: I would talk to folks and this is what I'll say. I talk to folks in a way that's... Thinking about the ways that the administration reacts to things. What does the administration react to? At MSU, we had a strategy that we knew that the administration reacted to bad news. They reacted to bad press and they would do anything that they needed to do to avoid getting bad press. And this is not me to say like, "Oh, just go do some bad press." But I think like organizing folks around amplifying the issue, having strategies, having the inside and outside strategy, I think is key, right? We have folks still talking with administration on these issues that were impacting. But we also had an outside strategy of mobilizing folks, whether that is on campus, whether that is when we were part of the association of big 10 student governments bringing folks into the fold to help amplify that as well. I also know that there's obstacles now and you're not being... With the pandemic it changed the way people are gathering. It changes the way people are organizing by also, again, see the digital space and digital organizing as a key opportunity to help affect change on campus. I hope that helps.

0:26:53.8 S1: Yeah. Alyssa, do you wanna ask your question? You're muted.

0:27:09.2 Speaker 5: Oh, sorry. I was muted. Could you remind me of it, Cindy? 

0:27:12.6 S1: Sure. Can you give an example of how you work through the balancing act of deciding how to share the opinions of Congresswoman Tlaib while faced with political obstacles? 

0:27:25.8 S2: Yes. Alyssa, that's my daily task.


0:27:33.6 S2: But what I will say as I spoke about it's actually refreshing to be able to do this in a way that... There are some members of Congress and this is nothing against those members of Congress. I think if it works for their district, it works for them. But there are some members of Congress that will say, "Okay, this is the Democratic Party line. This is where we're gonna be, this is where we're gonna vote, and we're gonna push forward because this is what we're gonna do." And it may work for them. And it's been refreshing to work for a member of Congress to say, "Yes, I am a Democrat. Yes. I'm part of the Democratic Party." But also what am I hearing from my residents? Is this actually going to solve the problem that they're facing? And something that she uses is, "Is this giving them trinkets or are we talking about transforming how folks are experiencing government when we root it?"

0:28:38.1 S2: And also, I think it's key to talk about values as well. And we talk a lot about how do we wanna show up with our values? How do we want to be rooted in those values? And when we have these conversation about what we to communicate and also building community with folks, it makes it a little bit easier. Because then the national news will say what they're gonna say. But when we go back in district, we hear from constituents say, "Oh, I knew exactly what you meant, or I know exactly what you're doing. That's helpful. Thank you so much for that." So I think your question says it very well. It is a balancing act, because there are some things... Because sometimes it's not gonna be that clear cut. Sometimes there are gonna be folks in your district to say, "Hmm, I need some more explanation." But because she is so district focused and so accessible in the district, we're able to have those conversations as well.

0:29:33.6 S1: Okay. Dennis, did you wanna bring up what you wrote? 

0:29:41.6 Speaker 6: Yes. I have a question about voting rights. With the Supreme court's order yesterday and out from the case in Alabama. It's always puzzled me why the Democrat, the bills that Democrats introduced in the House and the Senate have so many things in them that strike a lot of people as not related to voting rights, like anti gerrymandering provision, for instance, or campaign finance reform. And do you think a straightforward bill, straightforward putting the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act, back and forth, would have a better chance of passing? 

0:30:21.5 S2: That's a key question. And what I'll tell you, just so you know, in the House we passed two separate bills. One, in the first iteration was called the Florida People Act. It was HR one that did have those provisions of, as you mentioned, the anti gerrymandering, the election day as a holiday, the campaign finance reform and such. But also while this was happening, members of Congress were working on the John Lewis voting rights Advancement Act, which was the standalone bill that will re implement pre-clearance and make the Voting Rights Act judicial proof or whatever you wanna say for it. So both of those bills were put forth to the Senate and on separate track. When they got to the Senate, they then did negotiations where they really did pair down the Florida People Act and made it the Freedom to Vote Act. And also the John Lewis voting rights Advancement Act. So to answer your question, and I'll answer in two parts.

0:31:35.6 S2: There was the standalone bill in negotiations. They still had the standalone bill and they still receive roadblocks from Senator Manchin and Senator Cinema, but also the entire GOP Senate caucus. And then what we did went back in the house and we put them together to give them one bill to negotiate. And those also failed. But to answer your question on the standalone, I do think there is room. I think you see bills that have, I would say priorities in them when it comes to voting rights and election reform. And I think that's useful, but I also do think that they did have the foresight to put forward to John Lewis voting rights Advancement Act. And we still face those obstacles. It's still perplexing to me.

0:32:29.2 S2: Now I'll be honest with you, not only is it the right thing to do for voting rights and to make sure that folks are protected but also, as you mentioned, on the Supreme Court, I think the Supreme Court has given us a preview of when they actually consider this, this case fully, that they're gonna further gut the Voting Rights Act. So it's also a sense of urgency that you would hope that these senators have, and we just haven't seen that happen yet.

0:33:00.0 S1: I just keep having heavy sighs on everything that's going on. But Shunani, did I pronounce that right? Would you like to ask, you had put forward a question? 

0:33:12.5 Speaker 7: Yeah. Hi, thank you so much for speaking with us. The questions in the chat, but my question was just if you feel like your work is fulfilling at the federal level? I've always been interested in that sort of level of work. But I feel like, in recent years, it's kind of gotten more and more discouraging, just like reading the headlines of what's coming out of Congress. So just wondering how you feel about that? 

0:33:44.0 S2: Yes, thank you. I, it is still fulfilling for me. Just in a view that, no, I think we are putting forth. I think we're marching, making our marking in the sand first, in the sense of here's where we want to go with policy and change. But it is deeply frustrating, as I was saying to Dennis is deeply frustrating when we did put forth bills, which you can say that was a wish list. And we did go through negotiations and compromise and still fell short. And then to hear from constituents who thought, you know, we went out and voted, we went on voting record numbers, why aren't we seeing that change that we want to see? That is deeply disappointing? What I'll say is that it's really key to chart your own path in this work. While if you're not... If you're looking at the Congress and saying like, that's I probably don't want to be, or I don't want to be in a congressional office doing this work, but I still want to push some change. There are so many ways to be involved and advocacy groups; there's so many ways to be on the ground to connect with folks, you know, in a fulfilling way to be to say this is what's coming from community.

0:35:16.0 S2: There are so many ways to, you know, I work with so many communications professionals who are saying, hey, we need to talk about this in a different way. And it's very fulfilling to say, great, I can do that in a congressional office. And, you know, coming from Tallinn you can make floor speeches, you can send out statements to craft policy around the way that we're supposed to be talking about and interacting with policy as well. So what I'll say is that, while one aspect may look like there's not a lot of work going on, there's also a different way to affect that change. And then what I'll put further to say is that we still need folks like us in those spaces to keep pushing the envelope, to keep saying, this is where we need to go. Because I truly believe, and this is maybe this is something that keep me in world. But I truly believe at some point; you're gonna see folks completely fed up with it and want to completely change what's going on. And I hope that during that, while that's going on, we're continuing to organize and work to make sure that we're moving towards a society that creates a good quality of life for everyone.

0:36:21.7 S1: Can I just a little bit of a follow-up on that question? Because I've been, and I... Something I wanted to ask you. Anyhow, it was, you know, can you talk a little bit about the intersection of working for a congressional office, so working nationally and federally, but really the impact locally? And how you work with local people, whether it be government or organizations? 

0:36:46.9 S2: Absolutely. And one thing I love about being based in a district in this role is that I'm able to interact with folks locally all the time, as opposed to our DC staff may come to the district every now and then. One thing that Congresswoman Tlaib did at the start is that we created what we call legislative workgroups in the district. So these workgroups, we have a housing workgroup, we have an environmental justice workgroup and an economic justice workgroup. And these are folks in the district whether there are organizations, residents who are impacted by these issues, advocates at the table helping to say," Hey, this is what we want to see," or we know these bills are coming up, we will go to them often and say, "Hey, this legislation coming up. Are there any amendments that you want to see? How does it look?" And it really helped, or, you know, "What ideas do you have that we can craft legislation around," and it really helps us have that connection to the district. So we can really funnel it up to the national level on the DC stage.

0:37:53.0 S2: But as also I mentioned, it helps us with the communications work as well, because we can say, here's how folks are talking about it in the district. And it helps to have a clear eye on how folks are reacting to what's going on in DC. It keeps that feedback loop that's going on. And separately, as we think about local government officials, we meet routinely with local folks to say, so often comes up with funding. But we also talk about this is appropriation process, but also, here's a bill that will impact local governments. How do you want to see a change, or is this something good? So it's all about keeping those feedback loops and that line of communication open. We're not going to agree on everything. But I think folks really value having a member of Congress and staff that really wants to check in with folks and say, "Here's what we need in the City of Detroit. Here's what we heard from the City of Inkster and Westland and such as such."

0:38:56.5 S1: Thank you. So we've gone through the questions that were submitted, and certainly like to open up to other questions because I know we have a very curious bunch online. Anybody else have a question? 

0:39:14.8 S2: Feel free to ask about anything. [chuckle]

0:39:16.3 S1: Yeah, ask anything. You also didn't mention I saw in your bio that you're a dog person, so we like that about you.

0:39:24.6 S2: Oh yes, I have a Yorkie named Minnie and she's currently in the other part of the room, sleeping. She had a very long morning, even though she's just been sleeping.

0:39:38.5 S1: Yeah. [chuckle]

0:39:39.4 S2: And y'all know, yeah, she keeps me laughing all day. One thing I'll say to folks, as I was thinking about this, I think... As I was saying, it's really key... I know times are difficult right now, and it really seems that there's not a lot of movement happening. What I will say is that I do believe that there is movement happening just in different places that may not be on the front pages or may not be what we see on CNN or MSNBC. But I think it's very key as we're thinking about what we wanna do in our community and our work, to, like I said, chart your own path, tap into the passion that you have, and as so... And create what you wanna see around that.

0:40:29.8 S2: I never thought I would be... To be honest with you. I told you I wanted to be a pilot growing up, but also five years ago, if you would have said, "Hey, would you ever work on the capitol hill? I would not say as a communication director I would be working on the hill. So it's really key to find that passion. The other thing I think is, whether it's around policy organizing, comms or however you want to be in the space, it's key to be connected to the community that you're in service with, because so often, I see a lot in campaign world that we see campaigns come into the state of Michigan, and they say, "Oh well, we're gonna run the same program that we ran in Iowa or that we ran in Nevada," and it doesn't work here because we have different communities and we have different communities and their needs.

0:41:22.6 S2: And also in the way that we talk with folks and things like that. So it's really key to be connected with the community, because also when there are... If you're running for office or if you have an organization that's based in the community, if you make a mistake, you're in community with folks to say, "What does accountability look like?" But also, it just would make your work so much better, and so much more connected. And the last thing I'll touch on, as I mentioned...

0:41:53.4 S2: As I said, as a queer person of color in politics, running for office, one thing that I've had to think about is, being sure I show up as my authentic self. And that's what as you're thinking about whatever you're doing now or in the future, it's key to be who you are. Have a place that you're gonna... You learn and evolve. I'm not saying to say... Be who you are, and if you have some things that you gotta work on, don't work on them, that's not what I'm saying. Definitely learn and grow, but be who you are and be unapologetic about it because it's so easy to be in this, and we see so many folks change who they are, and the community that they have been with say, "That's not who you were, that's not who we elected, that's not who we worked with," so I think that's key. And then also it'll make you much happier. And there's really a space for everyone in this work, and if someone tells you that there's not, that's not someone that you wanna work with anyway.

0:43:00.0 S1: All really good advice. I come from... Moved back to Michigan after 35 years in Washington DC and I've seen a lot of stuff. And actually, when I went down there, it was during the Reagan years, and I was an environmentalist back then, and we had a very anti-environmental Secretary of Interior, and it was, again, one of those times where actually the environmental community rose up and became strong again. So I mean there's opportunities, and I would tell every student on here, it's like, We need young blood doing this work, and the energy that you bring and... Yes, and be authentic. Be yourself.

0:43:40.4 S2: Absolutely.

0:43:42.8 S1: So I really appreciate you sharing that. I just saw something... Oh, you are on... I'm onboarding a place, can't speak of this, it's been wonderful. On the terms, this comes from Jess. On terms of voting rights and also getting more folks to take up these spaces, how do you see moving forward as a collective of working class people effectively compete or combat rather with corporate elites? Voting rights is one battle, but we see economic rights playing a detrimental role in the results of these elections and the policy that comes out of office.

0:44:19.1 S2: Yes, Jess, and if you're... I think you... If you meant you're boarding a plane, save travels to you. What else? With voting rights, one thing that I talked about, as I was part of the Democracy Reform Group when I was doing the voting rights organizing across the state, we looked at it in three pillars: Redistricting reform, voting rights, increase in voting rights and access to the ballot, and then campaign finance reform. And as I talk to folks, whether it's on a local level, state level, federal level, I think campaign finance has a very large role in the impact of our elections. As I mentioned, the proposal around the charter revision, they spent millions of dollars against it. This is a charter that community came together to come up with. We didn't have millions of dollars [chuckle] to push forth a positive message around it. You see constantly presidential elections are going up and up now in the billions of dollars or how much a presidential election costs. On the state level, you see folks raising more than a hundred, two hundred thousand dollars for state rep seat.

0:45:39.6 S2: I think it's going to be key for us to change our campaign finance laws. I think Citizens United with the unlimited spending has had a detrimental impact on our political arena. But also, as we think about not... As we think about that change, I think we had to look into it... And one thing I talked about was, what I want to do as City Clerk was explore a public finance... A publicly financed campaign system in the city of Detroit, and looking at the ways that they've done in Seattle and other places. But also beyond that, I think it's so interesting as we talked about, as... We may not see that change happening in those chambers of government, but we see... There's a lot of folks making their voices heard in the workplace. And as we see efforts around... And I think this is completely tied to the economic justice question, a part of that, of folks demanding more workplace rights, unionize, and then such... And you see that work... That progress happening there. So I think we have to approach it in every facet. While we see gridlock right now, on a federal level, let's look to local and state level and see if we can move change there. If we see gridlock there, let's see how we can do it within our... In our community and workplaces. And I think that's gonna be key to, again, keep that drumbeat going and keep that progress rolling as well.

0:47:13.1 S1: That's helpful. One example of where things started at a state level that will have national, just on the reproductive justice.

0:47:20.6 S2: Absolutely.

0:47:22.1 S1: Folks came together and are going state by state, and it's really in order. They couldn't do it federally, so you can actually see how either local or state really makes an impact.

0:47:34.1 S2: Absolutely.

0:47:34.8 S1: Are you gonna run again? 


0:47:37.9 S2: I do plan to run again. It probably won't be until 2024 or 2025. There's a... I do want to work more on the civic education stuff in communities to... As I said when I was running, this is something that I think would be great to be led by City Clerk's Office, but we... It's something that's needed, and I plan to do. Also on that topic, what I'll do, I will put my email address in the chat, that folks are interested in any training programs around campaign staff, running for office, anything like that, please reach out to me. If folks are even looking for employment opportunities and organizing the political space or campaigns, I get a lot of that across my email inbox, and I would love to share with you as well.

0:48:30.0 S1: Did you get that, Gail? Gail actually heads up some of [0:48:32.6] ____ our undergrad career.

0:48:35.3 S2: Okay. Yes, Gail, let's connect for sure. [chuckle]

0:48:38.3 Speaker 8: I would love to. Thanks, Cindy.

0:48:42.3 S1: Yeah. [chuckle] Any other questions? Thanks, Denzel. Well, then this has been quite wonderful. And I've really enjoyed this conversation and getting to know you, and just so you know, you're part of the Ford family now. I do want to talk more about this at some point... Oh, Crystal, I just saw you raised your hand.

0:49:05.8 Speaker 9: Yeah, all good. Yeah. So right now, I'm in a business and democracy class with the business school at Ross, here in Michigan, and so wondering, Denzel, if you could, I guess, talk with us about your experience in terms of this idea of private and public partnerships, I know it's a term that keeps being thrown around in different levels of government. And so do you think that's actually a liable option to pursue more social good, or is it something that still needs to be fleshed out before being pursued? 

0:49:41.2 S2: Thanks, Crystal. And I will say this is not a... The public private partnerships is not an area that I've worked extensively in, but in what we... There are a lot of instances of that happening in the City of Detroit. And what I will say is that I think a lot of this came out of really thinking about... Thinking, working through government in a scarcity model of a CNR City, through the bankruptcy and emergency management to say, "Oh, well, we want businesses and a private funding to take this on." And that's something that I think could be a very... A slippery slope in replacing public services and public goods with private entities. What I'll say is that... What I say, I would say it needs to be fleshed out more is that to ensure that we are having public goods and our public services fully intact. And then I do think there's a role for then us to work with the business community and other entities to say, "How can we do more?" But I think the basic services and basic needs that we've seen in the city, in my experience, I don't think it has reached that point. Hope that was helpful. [chuckle]

0:51:07.9 S1: Was it helpful, Crystal? We gotta thank you. I'll go back to thanking you. I'm very interested in this civil... What did you call it? Civil education core? Civil Engagement core. I'd love to talk to you more, because maybe we might have some students who want to work on a project...

0:51:25.3 S2: Oh absolutely. I'd love that.

0:51:28.3 S1: For many years... I worked at the Close Up foundation in Washington for a while, and we bring students to Washington for a week. So it's also a passion of mine, so look forward to that.

0:51:41.3 S2: Absolutely.

0:51:41.8 S1: Like I said, I can't thank you enough, Denzel, and you're part of the Ford family now. And we look forward to engaging with you in the future.

0:51:51.2 S2: Thank you.

0:51:51.6 S1: Thank you, Denzel, I hope everybody will join us in thanking Denzel, I can see lots of clapping hands...

0:51:56.1 S2: Thank you.

0:51:56.8 S1: Hopefully, within the year, we can bring you here. Just so you know, Denzel... What? Were you roommates or just friends with Nick Hurst from our communications...

0:52:07.3 S2: We were friends. When I was at the Resource Center, we did a lot of work together.

0:52:12.2 S1: Oh, okay.

0:52:12.9 S2: And became friends and...

0:52:13.8 S1: Yeah, yeah.

0:52:14.1 S2: Nick is great.

0:52:14.7 S1: We'll thank Nick for bringing you to us.

0:52:16.5 S2: Yes, please.

0:52:18.9 S1: So, thank you.

0:52:19.9 S2: Thank you all for having me. And please...

0:52:22.3 S?: Thank you.

0:52:23.4 S2: Feel free to reach out if you need anything, my email address is in the chat.

0:52:28.1 S1: Great. Thanks, Denzel.

0:52:29.8 S2: Take care, everyone. Bye-bye.